On Sunday, US President-elect Donald Trump’s incoming press secretary Sean Spicer questioned the severity of President Barack Obama’s retaliation against Russia for cyber-attacks on Democratic officials.
“I think one of the questions we have is: Why the magnitude of this?” Spicer asked on ABC’s “This Week.”
Last week, the Obama administration announced that it was taking a series of actions against Russia after accusing Moscow of spearheading hacking attacks against the Democratic national committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.
A trove of politically embarrassing emails was released during the election campaign.
In retaliation, the White House expelled 35 Russians and closed two waterfront estates, one in New York and one in Maryland that it said were involved in Russian intelligence operations.
The administration also announced sanctions, and said it would take further covert actions against the Kremlin.
A number of Republicans declared that the measures taken by the Obama administration retaliation were did not go far enough.
Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described them as an “initial step.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the U.S. actions were “overdue.”
Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also said they were “overdue,” but described them as “a small price for Russia to pay for its brazen attack on American democracy.”
Spicer suggested on Sunday, however, that the White House had overreacted.
“I mean, you look at 35 people being expelled, two sites being closed down. The question is: Is that response in proportion to the actions taken? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t,” he said.
He noted another massive data breach of the Office of Personnel Management in 2015, which the Obama administration accused China of backing.
“China took over a million records, sensitive data,” Spicer said. “No action publicly was taken. Nothing … Nothing was taken. … Not one thing happened. So there is a question about whether there’s a political retribution here, vs. a diplomatic response.”